Gender equality can be difficult to find in many aspects of life. This notion also holds for addiction treatment. For years, research and treatment for addiction have been developed almost exclusively for men. That means treatment has been explicitly constructed regarding the male body and male physical and emotional needs. How then can you find gender equality in treatment for substance abuse?
Treatment for Addiction Has Historically Been for Males
Interventions for drug and alcohol addiction have come a long way through the ages. Today's most commonly known recovery program is Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935. Their program and all of its research were developed based on males' needs. Despite including women in their programs, it took many years to realize that women had different needs.
Finally, in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers began raising awareness that women with addiction had different needs from their male counterparts. Research specifically targeting women is still new and has not caught up to the levels of research regarding treatment and care for men. Even today, in 2022, women experience difficulty searching out equitable treatment for their needs.
Female-Specific Needs in Addiction Treatment
One of the first challenges in developing gender equality in addiction treatment is identifying the specific needs of women that differ from men. Women also face different barriers to treatment than men do. Some of these differences include:
- Stigma toward females
- Relationship factors
- Pregnancy and parenting issues
- Childcare or elder care
- Financial factors
- Higher co-occurring rate of depression and mood disorders
- Co-occurring eating disorders
- Significantly higher rates of trauma, need for trauma-informed care
- Triggers related to sexual abuse or assault
Advocating for Better Treatment for Women
When finding a facility for a woman or person who identifies as female, you will need to advocate for female-specific needs such as those listed above. Many co-ed facilities claim to offer fair and impartial treatment but do not offer services to address female-specific needs. For example, providing gender-specific housing or even gender-matched counselors alone does not address the majority of the female-specific needs.
Just like you would not visit a urologist for your gynecological needs, you do not want to be lumped into treatment designed for men's needs. You need to make sure that all of your needs will be met, including physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, since the facilities themselves do not always offer equitable treatment, you will need to be your own advocate. Some of the questions you may want to ask would be:
- What type of accommodations, medical care, etc., do you offer pregnant women?
- Do you offer trauma-informed care or integrated care?
- Do you offer assistance with childcare or eldercare?
- Are there specific treatments for disordered eating?
- What kind of care do you offer for co-occurring mood disorders?
- Do you have gender-specific care for those with sexual trauma?
Why a Co-ed Facility Is Not Gender-Equal
Trauma is one of the most significant factors that differentiate a facility that genuinely caters to the needs of women. Because much of the trauma that women face, including sexual harassment, assault, emotional abuse, and physical abuse, has been supplied by men, treatment involving men can trigger women.
Equality in this scenario is not the same, but rather that the needs of each gender are met equally. Since the needs of men and women in treatment can be so different, co-ed treatment facilities rarely address the needs of men and women separately and equally.
Is a Gender-Specific Treatment Program Equal?
A facility that is specifically for both women and those who identify as female has the ability to offer the best possible treatment and outcome for women. The opposite is likely true for a woman who identifies as a male receiving treatment at a facility. A co-ed facility is more likely to meet the needs of men because they don't typically enter with conditions such as pregnancy, eating disorders, or male-induced sexual trauma that are so specific to gender.
Female-only facilities have the ability to address all of the needs of women thoroughly, including their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Women with trauma can feel safer as they begin to heal, and the shared emotional experiences can be more empowering. Classes and curriculum can be designed to include female-specific issues such as pregnancy and eating disorders, and genuine trauma-informed care can be implemented. In order to find gender equality in treatment for women, the separate but equal rule should be invoked.
Finding gender equality in treatment for addiction can be challenging because equality actually means different. Because women have so many particular needs in treatment for substance abuse, a female-specific program is likely to be the most equitable. Here, all of a woman's needs can be precisely and effectively met. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a female-specific residential treatment facility for women as well as those who identify as women. We offer trauma-informed care, including trauma-informed 12-Step meetings, as well as She Recovers meetings for women. Our nutritionist provides counseling for eating disorders, and we focus on the mental, physical, and emotional needs that are specific to women. Contact us today at the Ho Tai Way in Costa Mesa, California, by calling (714) 581-3974. Find out if our women's addiction treatment program is right for you. You already have the tools inside you to achieve sobriety. We help you use them.